Jacksonville, FL - Now-former Democratic Congresswoman Corrine Brown has been denied a new trial, after being convicted on 18 of 22 federal fraud-related charges in May.
A judge has also issued an order denying a motion for acquittal. Brown’s sentencing has now been set for November 16th.
Brown was found guilty of soliciting hundreds of thousands of dollars for a sham charity called “One Door For Education”, using the money for personal expenses and lavish events instead. Her Chief of Staff Ronnie Simmons and the President of One Door Carla Wiley both pleaded guilty and testified against Brown at trial.
Simmons has now been formally adjudicated guilty and his sentencing has been set for November 15th. Wiley was adjudicated shortly after entering her plea in March 2016, but her sentencing has now also been set for November 15th, to take place in the same courtroom at the same time as Simmons.
FULL COVERAGE: Federal fraud trial of former Congresswoman Corrine Brown
Brown had sought a new trial by claiming the judge improperly dismissed a juror after deliberations had already started, because that juror said at the outset of deliberations that the “Holy Spirit” had told him Brown was innocent. In the initial order dismissing the juror, District Judge Timothy Corrigan had carefully worded his ruling, saying that it would not have violated the jury process to pray for guidance, but to have an influence that prevents the juror from considering only the evidence- like a determination of innocence from a “Holy Spirit”- crosses the line.
“Had Juror No. 13 simply stated to his fellow jurors that he was praying for guidance during the deliberations, that would not have been problematic,” Corrigan’s order says. “But that’s not what happened here.”
Jurors are instructed only to consider the evidence of the case presented at trial and the court’s instruction on the law in determining a verdict. Some of that instruction included that jurors must discuss the case with one another and only make their verdict determination after considering all of the evidence with the other jurors. During the jury selection process, they also all agreed they had no religious or moral beliefs that would preclude them from serving in a fair and impartial panel.
Corrigan says he believes the juror felt he was obeying the court’s instructions on deliberations, but that he violated it by holding this conviction before deliberations even started. Corrigan further says he would have come to the same determination if the “Holy Spirit” had told Corrigan that Brown was guilty as well.
An alternate juror was seated and the panel was instructed to start deliberations from scratch. The verdicts of guilty on 18 counts and not guilty on 4 counts were unanimously reached after about eleven hours of deliberations.
“Corrine Brown is entitled to a fair trial with an impartial jury that reaches a verdict in accordance with the law. That is what she received,” Corrigan’s ruling says.
Brown’s motion for acquittal said that prosecutors had not shown she had criminal intent, claiming instead that she had poorly managed her finances and office, but never intended to defraud anyone. Corrigan’s ruling detailed some of the evidence laid out by prosecutors and said the jury could reasonably infer guilt from that. Brown’s attorney further contended that the fact that Brown was found not guilty on four of the charges diminished the government’s proof. Corrigan belives that shows the jury carefully deliberated the evidence and merits of each specific charge.
“Suffice it to say, there was more than sufficient evidence to justify the jury’s verdict on each count of conviction,” Corrigan’s ruling says.
Brown’s attorney James Smith tells us she’s “understandably saddened and disappointed” by the judge’s rulings, but she remains strong and maintains her innocence. She further wants supporters to know that she appreciates their prayers and will continue fighting.
While Smith said Brown is planning to pursue “any and all available legal options”, he declined to get in to many specifics on what those avenues include. He says their focus right now is geting her the best sentence possible, and a motion for reconsideration is something they could look at in the future.
The US Attorney’s Office declined to comment about the rulings at this time.